User Story Mapping – Steps to Success

User Story Mapping has been described as a niche tool to achieve much. Tools for product development, feature definition, version improvement and project management just to name a few.

In this case we are looking at the steps to success, utilising User Story Mapping methodology to help define your path. The first two steps instantly reward.

Firstly, planning the map rewards you a pathway to the point so that you can start writing user stories (a user story is a short description of something your customer will do when using your product).

Secondly, the end result is a visual chart showing the structure of your stories which gives you the steps to development.

Here is another way to approach User Story Mapping in three steps and this is a relatively quick way of getting to a point to start development work.

A finished User Story Map example.

Hosting your Story Mapping Session

Because User Story Mapping can come across as complex it is important that management of the session is approached with a framework. Needless to say that User Story Mapping can be a new tool for most people so outlining what it is all about and describing the process is important.

Start with tasks where the team thinks about the product, users, development and personas.

Step One

We start by brainstorming every task that users will want to address when using the product.

Silent Brainstorming. Task each participant to write down steps in your cards, every step will need to cover from the users first engagement to the conclusion of the users interaction.  Encourage the team to think of these as actions not features.

Top Tip: Writing them so they start with a verb is a good technique.

Encourage people to be creative and try to cover tasks and steps wide, but not deep. This part of User Story Mapping is about breadth not depth.

Start posting all cards and tasks in one large map. Thats fine, you’ll have duplicates, and these should sit beside each other on the line (not above or below). As you expand and learn you can easily drag and drop and delete if needed. The beauty of using digital software for large collaberation tasks such as this allows you and you and your team to easily edit, expand and develop your map.

This first line is the user tasks and they form the backbone of your story map.

Step Two

Then we organise these tasks into wider goals, and arrange them in order of completion.

These groups are known as “epics” or “activities”.

As facilitator you can walk along the line of tasks and ask where the team think the splits are between each group of tasks, and what each group should be called.

For example, if you were building an app for an app to arrange your movies you might group user tasks into epics like this:

Browse DVDs in collection – epic
View flat list of all DVDs – user task
View DVD cover thumbnails in results – user task
DVD Spec Call – user task

Step Three

We can then move into the Prioritisation exercise, further developing the user story map.

This is the stage where you start writing in the details, building up the tasks and redifining tasks. This may include adding tasks, merging tasks or seperating tasks.

It is important to detail the tasks enough to remember in the future.

After writing all the tasks, you should have a comprehensive map by this stage.

Task your team to go over each line (now defined as Epics/actitives) and ensure you have everything charted. This is where the User Story Map will become easier as you will now have a visual chart of a defined product. Here you can move to the next steps.

The Moviebuddy Current Version

Next Steps

Now you are ready to start prioritising the user stories on your map. You can start adapting and moving your tasks to sprints, also known as versions for your product.

You can check out the Movie Buddy Public Board here at FeatureMap.

You can do this all with Post-It notes with your in house team, or digitally using FeatureMap.co with your teams remotely and digitially.

Check out FeatureMap.co and sign up to try for free.

Intro to Story Mapping – Product Roadmap

A story user map can be used as a method for visually outlining your roadmap for your product.

We started this intro to story mapping with a basic run down and a simple exercise taking you through the morning tasks and making a map. Now we will look at how to outline your roadmap. Also don’t forget to check out some good practises in going from Idea to MVP.

If you are following the intro, you’ll have looked at how to outline your feature definition.

In our case study we are going to look at “Movie Buddy”. The Initial MVP was to generate an app which could be used to manage your DVD collection.

The first step is to identifiy your main goal, in this case it was “Manage my DVD Collection”

The next layer introducing tasks and we identified 4 main features.

  • Add a DVD to my collection
  • Browser DVDs in collection
  • Find a DVD in collection
  • View/Edit DVD info

From here we were able to fill in further details for each card in our first sprint.

Movie Buddy first MVP

The horizontal sprint delimits the first iteration we implemented from stories,  from ideas and how we chose to postpone features for a further iteration. We chose to implement the backbone for the main features and come back later to add details and fine-tunings.

From here we moved to the next step and that was expanding our features. You can see we have expanded a colum to the right (in green.)

We wanted to introduce a social element, a movie recommendation feature.

Now to add cards to this next sprint we needed a new horizontal layer, so adding sprint 2 (in purple) this allowed us to identify what improvements we wanted to add to our core back-bone features.

Expanding to sprint 2

You can see how with each new column of improvements and with each deployment of your application (or version) you can develop and expand your application using a simple user story map.

At a glance you can see which features are implemented, or which features are set to be implemented down the road.

In this example it was decided that the “Get Movies Recommendations” section was a good hit and so the idea was expanded. In addition our users wanted to expand our core backbone and introduce scanning of barcodes of DVD’s to identify it in our database.

We realised we could scan DVD’s by barcode, but taking photos of the cover would need extra work so we seperated the sprints, in addition we also wanted to improve our management of favourite directors/actors by allowing recommendations on directors but that would take time. This was also added to the later sprint.

Moving features down to another Sprint

This left us with our final idea and roadmap for the coming development cycles.

Notes

 

When designing a roadmap from your MVP it is okay to place down expanded ideas and the best features you can imagine. A user Story Map is designed to allow you to see the overall roadmap, the big picture, the ideal application.

Taking that application can then allow you and your team to arrange the features, arrange the sprints, split the application up to version and settle, together, with an ideal roadmap.

We have the MovieBuddy Map here if you want to see the completed MovieBuddy Map.

Intro to Story Mapping – Feature Definition

A story user map is a method for visually covering a story, to help discussions. The main purpose for making  a map is to build shared understanding for the individuals of a team.

We started this intro to story mapping with a basic run down and a simple exercise taking you through the morning tasks and making a map. Now we will look at how to define features in a product.

When you first start off it is best to have an idea of the ideal product, but have not yet started on your product roadmap. Instead start with the user’s normal workflow (minus the app or software) and figure out how to translate that flow into a product experience.

Below I have outlined an example case study of arranging a conference with the persona of the organiser and board member.

The team sat down and exchanged tasks, goals and ideas. We then started to construct a story map based on the conference organiser’s first set of responsbilities and workflow.

Conference Organiser Workflow

After the initial workflow you will notice the goal at the top linked to the persona.

The main activities are in the first row, divided into further tasks in each column which details each activity.

On a card we have further detail such as:

Detail on a card with checklist

After we established the conference organiser’s tasks we then expanded the story map to include the expanded responsibilities and workflow of the entire Team.

Workflow of the organiser and speakers

With this map now completed we can see the user workflow and what features we need defined.

Check out our completed map.

Next from this map we can develop and build a product roadmap.

Check in next week and have an introduction to designing our first MVP roadmap. Also check out from idea to MVP, a seperate article about building from the idea to the MVP.

Quick intro to Story Mapping

A story user map is a method for visually covering a story, to help discussions. The main purpose for making  a map is to build shared comprehension for the individuals of a team.

When building your story map, you should include all the relevent people, regardless of position, in the team. Due to their different foundations and interests, they all get valuable points of view. Everybody has an unmistakable and common comprehension of what they are about to build together.

Product owner, testers, technical lead, customer support, architect, UX/UI designer, sales and marketing, etc. All have their own techniques and requirements which will help you create your map.

How to build a story map

If you are brand new to user story mapping, we have a short and sweet exercise. Let’s take a simple real-life example of “getting ready for work”.

The StoryMap of Alex’s Morning
  1. Start with the goal.
    What is the story map about?
    What are you trying to accomplish?
    The main overall purpose.
  2. Second list your main stories, your main tasks or activities. From left to right, insert the main steps of the story map that need to happen.
  3. Move on and detail each main list – column by column, left to right.

In the case of product features, the layers can be then developed and you can plan out MVP‘s, or product iterations with each following layer.

When exploring product features, build story maps for multiple options that solve the underlying problem. Allow your entire team to contribute and come to and understanding of the final decision.

Story User Maps are ideal for allowing a team to design out a product feature and reduce the need to go back half way through development because XYZ requirement was missed out.

Check out our Getting Ready For Work Map

We cover three different user-case situations we can use Story Mapping.

Feature Definition

Product Roadmap